Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Third (Furry) Baby

I'm going to be honest -- before I brought Tigger home, I really did think he was going to behave less like a living being and more like a robot. Give command -- follow command. Perfect obedience, some affectionate behavior at designated intervals, but no real personality or independence to speak of. What can I say? I'm going to attribute my embarrassing ignorance to having little experience with dogs in general, and a complete lack of experience in training or working with a service dog. As stated in an earlier post -- I can be proven wrong (and it is usually a good thing that I am).

Tigger, as it turns out, has a lot of personality! He is extremely affectionate and friendly -- he loves people, other dogs, and even my two mean old cats (he looks so sad when they hiss at him!). Like a little kid, he loves attention and really can't stand to be alone for even a few moments. New friends to greet, belly rubs, easy cheese, and stuffed animals with squeakers, all make Tigger a very happy puppy. 

In many ways, all this personality is a pleasant surprise. We've really fallen in love with him and his sweet nature. And I think he truly loves everybody back. Not to mention that, for a 7 month old puppy, he is REMARKABLY well-behaved: you only need to tell him once to "leave it," he never begs, is generally quite calm, and he is usually very willing to follow many commands -- all the result of the last 5 months of intensive puppy and obedience training which I am VERY grateful to our trainers for!

Simon also continues to react to Tigger in a truly remarkable way -- he treats him like a little brother. He bosses him around (Tigger! You go that way! You sleep on your bed! Time to eat!), gives him advice (Tigger! You need to be patient! You need to be a small dog, you're too big!), and he likes to help take care of him as much as he is able. Simon likes to hold his leash, get his food, and give him his toys to play with.

Simon really enjoyed showing Tigger all the new toys we had gotten him (so he has something to do OTHER than chew the cords of medical equipment!)

 However, just like the baby he is, Tigger fusses when he can't go where he wants when he wants to, and he hates being sent to bed. He gets into things because he is curious, or bored (like chewing up the cord of Simon's pulse oximeter after bedtime a couple nights ago! ack!). He gets excited and tests his boundaries in new situations. He also has opinions about who he wants to listen to and be with -- he LOVES Brian and if Brian is home he follows him constantly (despite our ongoing efforts to get him to attach to Simon).

For my part, I've come to realize that, while Tigger is here to serve our family, he is also a member of it. He's another kid to add to our clan, albeit a very furry one. Though he learns fast and is well behaved he still needs some of the things that any kid needs, especially in a new environment.

So -- I've re-arranged Simon's room to give them both their own space. Siblings need that, I think. Simon now has a bigger bunk bed (playtime on top, sleep on the bottom) to accommodate sleepovers with Tigger, but Tigger also has his very own corner of Simon's room with a full toy box of options for him to entertain himself with something other than the cords of medical equipment in the wee hours of the night.

Simon on Simon's bed.
Simon on Tigger's bed.

I'm also providing Tigger with some clearer boundaries. While he behaves like a dream for Brian, he tends to ignore my commands half the time, and he pulls at his leash a lot when I walk him. Apparently, Tigger does not see this momma as an alpha (ha! If only he knew who really made the decisions around here!). I consulted with our trainer, Kim, about this and on her suggestion I got him a "gentle leader" harness that goes on his face for walking and I have acquired a rather loud clicker to get his attention. I also got some good advice from the trainer at Petsmart -- he told me to give a command once, wait for Tigger to follow it and then help him follow through if he doesn't listen to me (rather then "beg" him to do it repeatedly which is what I had been doing). So far, all of this seems to be helping Tigger pay better attention to me. We'll get there.

Tigger with me wearing his new "gentle leader" harness at the grocery store. He did great!

Our other big challenge is getting Tigger to "attach" to Simon as his boy. He likes Simon, but doesn't follow him or pay him any more attention than he does anyone else. Of course, it doesn't help that the one thing Simon does not like (which we are working on) is being very physically affectionate with Tigger. He will pet him when asked to, but only briefly. If we ask him to hug Tigger, he says "no thanks." I think Simon might not yet be that comfortable with Tigger -- especially his size. However, the fact that he is as relaxed with him as he has been thus far is a really good sign. I imagine that, given a few more weeks and a lot more encouragement, Simon will come to love on Tigger like the big teddy bear that he is. I also think that this evolving bond of affection will be the thing that finally gets Tigger to see Simon as "his boy" and help him divert his focus from Brian to Simon.

Overall -- the past few days have been very exciting, and a little overwhelming. I'm simultaneously falling in love with our new addition, and tentatively feeling out this new ground as a pet-parent and service dog trainer trainee. I have so much to learn, but there is one thing I can say for certain -- the more I learn, and the more I see Simon interact with Tigger, the more confident I am that we have made the best choice for Simon and our entire family.  We will get there!

1 comment:

  1. We love our gentle leaders!!!! Or, we now have Halti brand because it works better with our doggies' snouts, but same thing. We actually really wanted to put one in your care package, but at the time had no idea what size to get because Tigger had not been hand picked for you yet. I'm so glad you went with it! If he's not enjoying the feel of it, just let him wear it solid for a few days, and he should come around. Both of ours have one. :)

    I'm glad you're all adjusting, and I have to say breaking that alpha male with the oldest man in the house bond is pretty darn tough! I don't have any great words of wisdom on that one. My dogs, that live with me the majority of the time, and I tend to most of their needs, still look to JP. The dogs I trained in high school, gave all the treats to, took care of, and didn't even live with dad, looked to dad much more than me. The dog hierarchy is a tough one! I have the feeling your guy is so super smart that you'll make progress.

    But do remember, he's still super young. 7 months is so young for a puppy, but it's so cool that he's come so far already!!

    When we brought Sookie home, we were told she was 2 years, but it turns out she was barely 1. She was chewing up everything in sight, including Kieran's 1 and only lovey. (yeah, that one actually had me rocking on the floor crying freaking out because I wasn't sure what to do next). Hopefully now that you have him lots of new toys, it won't be an issue, but I know she really got attached to her Nylabone. Those things last forever!

    Still so super excited for you guys. I'm glad the transition is going relatively smoothly. And I"m totally jealous of Simon's pirate loft!